2 Times This Old Editor Was Dead Wrong

Published 8:55 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

Two times I was wrong …

Sure, you can probably count more, but there’s not room for all of them here.

First, I was wrong about that wall at the old Davie High campus. In the middle of construction two decades ago, I opined that it was ugly and a waste of money. That unleashed a torrent of letters to the editor agreeing with me. The superintendent at that time, Dr. Bill Steed, and school board had to defend it during the storm I ignited.

I was wrong.

As it turned out, the wall looked pretty good after the complimenting trees and shrubs grew. The wall served the beneficial purpose of hiding ugly yellow brick buildings behind it. A canopy protected students from the weather. And there was also a safety benefit from intruders before that became fashionable years later.

The wall kerfuffle — I love that word — served as a harbinger of what was to come when the county tackled the Davie High crowding issue. Now that the new school has been built, it is amazing how peace and harmony have descended on the county.

From the wall episode, I learned not to be too hasty to condemn a project until it’s finished.

Secondly, I was wrong about the Masonic picnics.

The new editor arrived in Mocksville in 1985, looked around for the biggest sacred cow and decided to hit it with a cattle prod. I may have been a snotty-nosed know-it-all back then.

It’s time, I wrote, to merge the black and white picnics into one big event. I suggested the separate picnics were a last bastion of segregation and should be merged. Sponsored by the Masonic lodges, the picnic dates back to 1878.

Some of the older white Masons said I had forgotten my raising. Some said I must have drunk too much Kool-Aid at one of those liberal colleges. All of them said they were going to politely ignore me.

Meanwhile, black Masons were equally unimpressed.

Then I discovered why.

I went to the black picnic. My old Farmington friend Mo Dobson ushered me around, and I had a fine time. So did everyone there.

The differences between the two events were drastic. The black picnic was a party. The white event featured long-winded speeches and was a little … boring.

The division was cultural more than racial. Neither group wanted to surrender their picnic and lose its identity and appeal. The segregation was by choice, not edict.

I failed to appreciate that difference.

Both events had ample and outstanding food spread for visitors … always, it seemed, on the hottest day of early August. Temperatures were oppressive.

In the ensuing years, both picnics have waned. The black picnic has been discontinued. The other picnic — no longer segregated — is not the social event that it was 60 years ago but the tradition continues. The picnics are fund raisers to benefit the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford. The charitable benefit has been huge when measured over more than 100 years.

I suspect the August heat has been the biggest problem the picnics have faced. Air conditioning has made us softer.

After experiencing both picnics, I apologized for my earlier comments. A devoted Mason, the late Scrip Robertson of Advance, called to congratulate me for my newly gained wisdom.

I loved his call and appreciated his patience with me.

— Dwight Sparks